Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is on a roll. In April, he trounced incumbent Petro Poroshenko at the polls. Last month, Zelensky’s Servant of the People party won a majority mandate in a snap parliamentary election, so it can press ahead with much-needed reforms. But a bigger challenge looms: finding a path to negotiate an end to the war in eastern Ukraine.
Zelensky’s winning streak could be tested when he meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in September. He is seeking more leverage over Russia in an attempt to resolve the conflict that has raged in eastern Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. But to do so, Zelensky will need to square a circle over the question of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership bid.
In February, Ukraine’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of a constitutional amendment committing the country to membership in both NATO and the European Union, a bill Poroshenko put forward late last year in the run up to the presidential elections. While the move to enshrine Ukraine’s eventual entry into NATO into law didn’t translate into the presidential win Poroshenko was likely looking for, it was the most serious step yet on Kiev’s long and bumpy road to asserting its independence from Moscow.